Freedom of speech: When is it OK for a fire service leader to speak out?

FireRescue1 readers debate over whether or not first responders should be held to a higher standard when it comes to voicing their opinion


By FireRescue1 Staff

A Pennsylvania fire chief recently took to Facebook to express his anger about the NFL allowing players to protest the national anthem, and in his response, directed a racial slur at Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin. 

The chief was fired, but the issue of how the situation should be handled arose amongst comments from FireRescue1 Facebook fans.

Should first responders be held to a higher standard when it comes to voicing their opinions? (Photo/Pixabay)
Should first responders be held to a higher standard when it comes to voicing their opinions? (Photo/Pixabay)

What do you think? Should first responders be held to a higher standard when it comes to voicing their opinions? Sound off in the comments.

1. "Being a public figure, you have to learn to just bite your tongue and keep quiet in all this. I've wanted to say things but you have to hold yourself to a higher standard in this job." — Michael Martin

2. "When you're in a public safety position, you have to watch what you say and do because people will always connect it to your position somehow. Yes, we have the freedom of speech. But that right does not make us immune to the consequences of that speech." — Tomas A. Mansfield

3. "He has a free speech right to post whatever he wishes on his personal social media. Period. If he didn't violate department policy, leave him alone. The only thing I don't like here is his use of the N-word." — Julie Beckmann

4. "The argument of free speech to protect racist remarks is completely asinine. It's like saying, ‘Hey, keep hating people just because they are different color than you, that's OK, hate all the people that are different than you but just don't say it out loud. Hate is OK as long as it's not said.’ We're in the service of helping people regardless of skin color." — Steven Andrews

5. "If there's one thing I've learned from being in the fire service, it's that you have to stay out of politics on social media.  Anything you do or say can and will be used against you (and your organization). If there's any doubt as to whether someone could see it the wrong way, it's better to not say anything at all." — Charles Helmbold

6. "I can understand his speech is constitutionally OK. But humor me anyway and show me where, in the Constitution, his position is safe and protected. Ignorance isn't an excuse." — Derek McIntyre

7. "Free speech right, if football players have the right to kneel and they are public figures, then a fire chief should be able to speak his mind as well." — Chris Velders

8. "Usually departments have strict policies about social media. Calling someone a racial slur most definitely broke that policy." — Michael Martin

9. "As a fellow firefighter, you represent your organization by your actions as much off duty as you do on duty. You are to uphold a higher standard while employed with the organization. While I do agree the government cannot limit your speech, the organization you work for most definitely can or there could be consequences." — Bradley Shock

10. "Free speech doesn't mean you are free of the consequences of your speech, especially in public service." — Brandon Strickland

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